Given its scale and reach, the global garment industry has the capacity to become a force for good. It is a complex sector, but there is undoubtedly momentum building towards a truly people- and planet-positive garment sector. A plethora of groups are actively and collaboratively working towards this; from investors to trade unions, governments to consumers, brands to factories and crucially, workers are calling for it.
Around 75 million workers are employed in the global fashion industry; about 85% are women. It is a vast industry characterised by many challenges that need to be addressed before meaningful change can become a reality. Some of these issues include: low wages, precarious employment conditions, incidences of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, health and safety breaches, the inability to form unions and raise concerns about conditions and, in some cases, forced labour and child labour are used. All of this means that millions of people across the world are working in jobs where their safety is compromised on a daily basis and where their right to a living wage is not upheld.
These facts and figures are widely known and frequently reported upon, and they are the core reason Fair Wear exists. We take our commitment to address these challenges seriously. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, when these issues have been exacerbated, we have seen first-hand the vulnerabilities in the supply chain and recognise the need to urgently focus on more sustainable relations.
Throughout the pandemic, we have consistently worked for meaningful change in production countries and continuously reviewed the international standards we work towards and use as a benchmark for progress.
All our work is based on the highest possible internationally recognised standards and conventions which are set through tripartite negotiations with the experience of workers as central.
Code of labour practices
Since Fair Wear’s inception, we have based our collaboration with brands on the Code of Labour Practices (CoLP), eight labour standards derived from ILO Conventions and the UN’s Declaration on Human Rights. These standards, which you can learn about below, still form the core of our work; however, in recent years, we’ve expanded the interpretation of the responsibility of brands in relation to human rights to be in line with the UNGPs.
OECD due diligence guidance
Our work with brands now embodies a ‘risk-based approach’ developed to ensure alignment with OECD due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains in the garment and footwear sector. The guidance is an internationally agreed translation of the responsibilities of brands. It establishes a common understanding of due diligence in the industry to help companies meet the expectations for responsible business conduct laid out in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
Aligning our work with this guidance has involved redesigning our monitoring requirements and specifying our expectations for brands regarding HRDD. All this is explained in our HRDD Policy document, which details our ‘risk-based supply chain improvement cycle’ approach. The cycle provides a way for brands to operationalise their HRDD and drive improvement with the workers’ voice as central.